Reduction in benefits would be a danger

Published 8:10 pm Saturday, August 27, 2011

In this year of economic turmoil, we in Minnesota have endured a statewide shutdown of many services and then listened to a federal debate over balancing the nation’s budget.

Both of these situations involved much talk of reducing governmental benefits to people. We realize that there are many different categories of people who receive governmental benefits for many different reasons but one group that would be severely impacted would be people with developmental disabilities and the people who work with and care for them.

We, who are involved with this population, often wonder if the politicians even realize who these people are.

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Since many people with developmental disabilities work in behind-the-scenes jobs such as janitorial, laundry facilities, or sheltered workshops, they are not a highly visible part of any community. They, of themselves, do not have a powerful organized voice to speak on their behalf and so we think they are sometimes a totally forgotten segment of our population.

When a child or an adult in the general public is missing, immediately family members, friends and communities put up “missing person” posters with a picture, vital information, when last seen, and a number to call. Why is this done? Of course, it is to make that missing person real to the rest of us. The community wants us to recognize that this person is someone’s sibling, spouse, child or parent. The media becomes involved and we are updated regularly. Hopefully the person is safely found but whatever the outcome, everyone is thanked for their efforts.

Perhaps this is the approach that more of us need to start practicing. We are not suggesting putting up posters for sure, but we can start calling or emailing our elected officials and sharing the story of our person.

Whether we are a caregiver, relative, friend or any concerned citizen we can help make people with developmental disabilities become “real.” Learn all you can about the benefits they receive and how funding cuts would impact that person. How would reducing specific benefits affect their jobs, living accommodations, health care, and their quality of life in general?

Not all people with developmental disabilities would be impacted in the same way and some would be more affected than others. However, we feel that our legislators need to start “seeing” the people that they so casually threaten to put on the chopping block of fiscal responsibility. Politicians need to understand that our population is indeed someone’s sibling, child, spouse, or parent. They are real and they have very productive lives.

Please consider contacting state and federal elected officials with your poster of information. Your communication should just be an honest account of this information and your heartfelt concern for the welfare of people with developmental disabilities. You can become their voice.

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